Sunday, August 14, 2005

Summer Sundae Saturday review: all the ducks are swimming in the rainwater

From feverishly following five day forecasts and the like, we knew it would rain. Indeed, nearly as bad as yesterday, it started raining on our way to the site. Heavily. Literally driven back from the main stage by the rain as much as by The Traces' fag-end of Britpop revivalism, I ended up using my local knowledge to find shelter in nearby buildings.

Coming back fifty minutes later just in time for the self-kicking spree that was the last piece of superior post-emo from local lads Redcarsgofaster, we're in time to see your afternoon host Lammo introduce Editors, Tom Smith unwisely pausing three songs in to console us with the thought that at least the rain's stopped when it clearly hasn't. Actually, a bit of a shower seems to do wonders for a band so wracked with self-doubt as they, the Interpolisms of the album largely excised through noise even with Will Sergeant riffs and Smith's Ian Curtis-esque spasmodic calisthenics with guitar. A wander inside finds the hall nearly packed out as early as the day's third band Clor, Barry Dobbin all in red leading a charge towards the art rock with keyboard effects that the album never quite makes and instead gets bogged down in electronica. They're enjoying themselves, which is more than the audience are.

By now it's absolutely tipping it down, sheets of rain falling vertically and about five rows back from the front getting an extra surprise when the rain building up on the canopy of the main stage dislodged itself every few minutes. In truth, it'd take something biblical to keep most of those down the front away from Art Brut, the eagle eyed having already had a preview of Eddie Argos chatting to everyone near out the back of the stage late in the Editors set. Of course they're a transient affair but that's not to say they can't be worthwhile in a slightly shameless way, from opening with the Back In Black riff into Formed A Band to Argos' rakish moustache and especially the moment during Blame It On The Trains when Ian Catskillin's big guitar solo fails to arrive due to technical problems, hardly helped by his flicking the Vs to the back of his tech, so Argos decides they need to stop the song and start it just before the solo. This he achieves by getting the entire field to turn their backs for a moment - which, fantastically, they do, Argos not quite believing this himself - and turning back round when they're ready to pretend the first go never happened. Top of the pops, yes.

Clearly, though, having been drenched through the mac, it's necessary to repair to a venue with a roof. Here we find Emiliana Torrini, who a friend has been going on about for ages but we've never quite seen the USP of. That's until now, where even though upstairs security is turning people away there's plenty of space downstairs, and despite half the downstairs audience not paying the blindest bit of attention she enchants those listening with gorgeous songs and vocals, part-Bjork (well, yes) part-Harriet Wheeler, with a band including a multiskilling drummer who takes to a bowed saw at one point. Her anecdotes have a leftfield charm of their own, one taking in Janet Jackson, tapes of university radio shows and a delivery to Beck, and another that starts "I heard this 60s song on the radio" and ends "he stabbed me under the arm with a pen". Meanwhile it's still pissing down, not that Tom Vek minds as he applies the rock to his take on Talking Heads recorded underground. The conditions don't help it much, but he does get some synchronised umbrella bobbing up and down going at one point.

After this comes a choice - food and a sit down/dry off or watching the Magic Numbers behind the best part of 5,000 people. We feel, in settling for a sit down chippy, we've let Richard Bacon win. Suffice to say not only, in the great cliche that is actually true this time, did the rain stop ten minutes before they took to the stage and the sun come out actually at the scheduled stage time but two other bands on the main stage bill asked "did you see the Magic Numbers?", the first person to speak to me after my return asked "did you see the Magic Numbers?" and the signing tent queue had to be curtailed after 45 minutes. We, meanwhile, return as they walk off and fall directly onto our arse. Bah.

Recovering in a cubicle (come on, it's a civilised festival) to the strains of the Chalets proving not to be as Younger Younger 28s revivalist as some of their output suggests - indeed we passed at least two of them taking pints from indoor bar to outdoor stage - we missed a bit of Devendra Banhart's even more popular set. There are many things you don't even expect Banhart to indulge in. The latter part of his 'folk-rock' tag, for one. Busting moves, for another. Yet there they were, as backed by various Espers he shimmied, ran round his mike stand, adored a baby in one of the front rows, tried choogling and generally fought a largely successful battle against the numbers at the back whose chatter could be heard during songs in the balcony. Little Yellow Spider for one benefitted from the rest of the band providing sound effects and dancing in the shadows - the lengthy interpretation of the happy squid moving so psychedelically will remain ingrained on our memory for some time. A triumph to close his European tour on.

Abandoning Amusement Parks On Fire when their brave attempt to fuse post-grunge and shoegazing was exposed as having just the one idea, we settled for watching ominous dark clouds fortunately amount to nothing while the Bees did their knowing retro-rock thing. Taking the stabs at going somewhere with their influences out after the first album is an odd move, one that has led to Ocean Colour Scene jibes being thrown their way from the cynical likes of us, but they're highly skilled musicians and turn out to be just the thing as dusk breaks. By Wash In The Rain there's clear dancing going on in various parts of the audience, by Chicken Payback it's about 80% movement. An oddly long gap sees us reject the Duhks as workaday fiddle dance folkies, South San Gabriel, the latest project from the men that brought you the under-rated Centromatic a few years back, as an uninspiring twitch of the post-Uncle Tupelo alt-country corpse and a walk in Victoria Park next door as much more amenable at the time.

It's sometimes difficult to tell which dance acts will take well to the live arena. How come the Orb, with nuts Alex Patterson, have never been as well received live as Orbital with their funny glasses? Lemon Jelly were always going to be great, what with their designing background and playful sampling, and although there seems to be a core who remain unimpressed there's a lot of moving going on at the crowded front and down the back where children are experimenting with their new glow in the dark toys and half-cut women are doing a fair impression of the bogle. This to reworked early stuff, pumped up basslines and, as seems de rigeur now, Nick and Fred taking to sundry acoustic guitars and keyboards to prove they aren't just DJs, despite the traditional DJ arts of hyper pointing and shouting about having a good time. More people there than for Idlewild? Well, there were probably more there full stop, but despite the conditions underfoot most seemed more up for it than Friday night. You end up feeling sorry for those who went indoors for Mylo.

Tomorrow, we try the noodle bar.

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